Life Ain't a Rehearsal! (except when you're in rehearsal)

I’m pretty sure it was in an inspirational cat calendar where I first read the phrase, “Life Ain’t a Rehearsal”, alongside a moody photo of an intense tabby dressed as Hamlet - staring down the barrel of the lens, just daring me not to live constantly and joyfully in the ever-lovin’ present. Man, that tabby really got it!  He also has an impressive list of classical work on his webpage, and does private monologue coaching (I’ve made an appointment for next Thursday).  

Sometimes, though, you actually ARE in rehearsal...and recently, as I was pressing my directing-beret and jodhpurs (jodhpurs aren’t only torture to spell - try ironing them), and  polishing my novelty-sized megaphone, I compiled a list of objectives to try to incorporate into the rehearsal process. One of the most important objectives, obviously, was not to get lost in my objectives and forget to direct the show.  Another important objective was to remember to pack my list of objectives before heading to the airport. I thought I’d share a few of them with you here in this lush blog format! (if you’re not particularly interested, you may want to skip to my next blog, “Objectives on how to survive St. Patrick’s Day without a steam-cleaner”).

***SPOILER ALERT: all the objectives I talk about turn out to be beautiful life lessons, and everybody wins!  (I suspect the narrative tension just suffered a bit)***

Objective 1:  establish my intention!  

Which forced me immediately to consider, “oh yeah, what the bleep IS my intention, anyway??”  I guess we generally kinda assume it’s to “do a good job”, or “do one’s best”, at least. But we’re always doing our best with whatever we’re believing at the moment; and doing a “good job” seems to be, much like my knowledge of who’s who at the Grammys nowadays, a bit on the vague side. So I decided my main intention would be to be of service. I would endeavour to be of service to the actors, to be of service to the designers, to be of service to the producers, to be of service to the piece we’d be working on, and ultimately, to be of service to the audience. By keeping in mind, “how can I truly be helpful?”, one can be far more open and available to what people require in the moment.  How will I know what people require in the moment? They’ll tell you, in one way or another, trust me! Asking them even works sometimes! (radical, non??)

And what does “being truly helpful” look like?  Well, in this situation, being truly helpful looks much the same as it does in every other day-to-day situation - kindness is helpful, compassion is helpful, a fun and mirthful outlook is helpful, clear communication is helpful, attentive listening is helpful, being patient is helpful, being open to other people’s creative impulses is helpful, trusting people to tend to their business while you tend to yours is helpful, and of course, not judging people and situations can be very, very helpful, indeed!  Oh, and snacks. I’ve found handing out snacks to also be very helpful!

Being “in charge”, like when you’re the fancy-pants director of a show, often comes with the notion that you should be dictating YOUR needs to everyone around you - preferably in a stern German accent.  However, if my only “need” is to be of service, and not to control everything and everybody, then suddenly life gets wayyyy less stressful.  And as stress eases, one is more clear-headed for being of service. And as much as we get caught up in trying to run the world, and fix all its problems (YOU’RE WELCOME, WORLD),  there’s really only one thing I know I can control, and that’s ME, and whatever’s flapping around all up in my birdhouse (that’s an expression, right?  No? NO EXPRESSION-SHAMING).

And it doesn’t mean things don’t get done. Things actually happen more smoothly when you can trust enough to loosen your grip and get out of the way. That’s how this sweet dream of a universe works!  Set your vision in that charming coconut of yours, and let it happen! For me, as a big ol’ theatre-lovin’ galoot, the ultimate thrill is to provide a service to the audience. All actors can get behind that. Whether you’re doing Pinter or a panto, that spark of joy an audience feels is identical. And giving people that spark is a joy. Joy is joy is joy, amigos! Giving IS joy. They are one and the same. Everybody wins! And you don’t have to do anything conspicuously grand to be of service. Smiling at a stranger can be of service. Holding a door for someone can be of service. Letting a delightfully rakish raconteur know how much you enjoy their blog can be a wonderful service. (DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME THOUGH I’M FINE)

Listen, loved ones  - I’m sure you’re getting cross-eyed by this point, so I’m going to continue this particular Tolkein-size series in my next few blogs...stay tuned for more compelling revelations and regurgitations from yours truly!!


J. Sean ElliottComment